• Act-On Software
    Act-On Software on January 22, 2015

    The Rules of Engagement on Facebook

    If you want to make your content sharable and searchable on Facebook, you need to have a thorough understanding of Facebook principles and the general rules that apply to content and behavior.
  • The importance of a well-balanced marketing mix can’t be overstated. Let me give you a brief overview of each of the media types – paid, owned, and earned.

    When it comes to the trio – paid, owned, and earned media, the most frequent question I am asked is: “Can you explain paid vs. owned vs. earned media? Which is ‘the one’ for my business?” While knowledge of all three is critical for digital marketing success, most B2B marketers treat them as individual animals and pursue them as independent marketing streams. So what? They are three different critters, right? Not really. Digital marketing is no longer a single-strategy game. As such, the importance of a well-balanced marketing mix can’t be overstated. Let me give you a brief overview of each – paid, owned, and earned.

    Paid media

    Simply stated, you pay for this type of media – tools like Google AdWords, or different types of search and display advertising, SEO and PPC campaigns, and so on. While this strategy calls for an extremely well-thought out plan and execution, it also needs to have compelling call-to-actions driven largely by customer benefits.

    There used to be time when digital marketing was synonymous with paid media. Not anymore. While paid media has its place, times have changed and people have gone beyond responding to promo pitches and clever commercials. Now they are more interested in building relationships with brands they trust and they are seeking involvement with those brands regularly.

    Owned media

    This is the media channel created by your business – the content that you own, in entirety. Think of it as the content featured on your website: your blog posts, the free whitepapers or eBooks that you offer, and any content that you are giving away in the hopes of winning new leads for your business. It also includes the content that you share on your company’s behalf across various social media sites.

    To nail this part of the game, you need to have a strong content marketing strategy, and an equally strong social strategy to back it up. Typically, good content is a highly misunderstood term among B2B marketers, who are valuing the opinions of peers and industry organizations to judge their content trustworthiness, a recent study from the CMO Council and NetLine  reveals. According to Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the CMO Council, “Buyers are not happy with vendors. Their content [tends to be] over technical, product-centric, and self-serving.” That’s too bad, considering marketing content is directed at buyers and prospects. Ignoring them altogether is inviting failure.

    Earned media  

    Earned media places customer into your media channel. The need for customer engagement reaches its pinnacle with earned media. It draws the attention of your prospects and customers, turns them into brand advocates and influencers, who will in turn push your brand before the eyes of more customers and potential brand advocates. You can even consider this the return of good-old “word-of-mouth marketing,” albeit with a modern twist.

    Earned media, however, hardly ever works alone. You have to make it a part of your marketing ecosystem along with paid and owned media. The truth is: in today’s digital landscape, they either work together or they don’t work at all.

    Build your marketing ecosystem with paid, owned, and earned

    While earned media can be a great tool for marketing campaigns, or even for laying out an overall marketing strategy, I recommend that you focus on creating a holistic strategy comprised of all three.  Create engaging, customer-oriented, and problem-solving content through owned media, with paid efforts, get that content strategically placed where it can be spotted by your target audience, and finally, earn the audience’s trust and support and turn them into your brand advocates.

    Where should you be spending your dollars?  Spend them on creating an ecosystem of paid, owned, and earned media.  

    This article was first featured on Forbes and can be found here.

    Image: Creative Commons  


    Countries and cities across the world are busily trying to build tech clusters. In an era where technology is radically changing how we work, play and live, high value tech companies are always going to be prized. But how do you build a tech cluster?

    Countries and cities across the world are busily trying to build tech clusters. Partly this is due to the sexiness of tech (expect the UK election to feature plenty of photo opportunities of candidates with startups), partly down to the fact that it seems easy to do, and a lot to do with the benefits it delivers to a local economy. In an era where technology is radically changing how we work, play and live, high value tech companies are always going to be prized.

    But how do you build a tech cluster? It may seem easy to do on the outside – set up some co-working spaces, provide some money and sit back and wait for the ideas to flourish, but it is actually incredibly difficult. This is demonstrated by the diverging fortunes of the locations of England’s oldest universities – Oxford and Cambridge. As a recent piece in The Economist explains, over the last few years Cambridge has added more well-paid jobs, highly educated residents and workers in general than its rival. This prompted a visit last October to the city from an Oxford delegation, with the leader of Oxford City Council admitting that “Cambridge is at least 20 years ahead of us.”

    Given the longstanding competition between the two cities, it is easy for people in Cambridge to sit back smugly, pat each other on the back and congratulate themselves on a job well done. However, a better course of action is to take a look at what is behind Cambridge’s success, and see what can be done to improve things. After all, there are startup and tech clusters around the world – competition is global – so there’s nothing to stop entrepreneurs setting up in Silicon Valley, Munich, Paris or London rather than Cambridge.

    I see five factors underpinning the success of any tech cluster:

    1. Ideas and skills

    The first thing you need to build any business is obviously a good idea. Universities, particularly those involved in scientific research such as Oxford and Cambridge have plenty of these. But you need a specific type of person to be involved with the research – with a mindset that goes beyond academia and understands how a breakthrough idea can be turned into a viable business. You then need to be able to access the right skills to develop the idea technically, whether through commercial research or programming.

    2. Support infrastructure

    This is where Cambridge scores highly in being able to commercialise discoveries, through a long-established support infrastructure. The Cambridge Science Park opened in the 1970s, while the University has put in place teams to help researchers turn their ideas into businesses. Research-led consultancies, such as Cambridge Consultants, provide another outlet to develop ideas, as well as helping to keep bright graduates in the city. There is also a full range of experienced lawyers, PR people, accountants and other key support businesses to help companies form and grow.

    3. Money

    Obviously without money no idea is going to make it off the drawing board. Cambridge has attracted investment from local and international venture capital, and has a thriving group of angel investors, who can share their experiences as well as their funding. Due to the length of time Silicon Fen has been operating, investment has been recycled, with successful exits fuelling new startups that then have the opportunity to grow.

    4. Space to expand

    Cambridge is a small city, and the combination of its green belt, lack of post-industrial brownfield sites and an historic centre owned by colleges, puts a huge pressure on housing stocks. As anyone that lives in Cambridge knows, house prices are not far shy of London – but spare a thought for Oxford residents. In 2014 an Oxford home costs 11.3 times average local earnings, nearly double the British norm of 5.8 times. Additionally, as The Economist points out, there is space outside the Cambridge greenbelt for people to build on, with South Cambridgeshire Council, which surrounds the city, understanding the importance of helping the local economy. In contrast, Oxford has four different district councils, and a powerful lobby of wealthy residents who want to keep their countryside pristine, hampering housing development. That’s not to say that Cambridge is perfect, far from it. More can be done to improve transport links to reduce commuting time and to spread the benefits of Cambridge’s economic success.

    5. Champions

    Ultimately tech clusters are judged by the success of the companies they produce. And Cambridge, partly due to the longevity of the cluster, has created multiple billion dollar businesses, from ARM to Cambridge Silicon Radio. This not only puts the area on the map for investors, but attracts entrepreneurs who want to tap into talent and spawns new businesses as staff move on and set up on their own. You therefore see sub-clusters in particular areas of tech develop as specialists use their knowledge to solve different problems. This then further strengthens the ecosystem.

    Tech clusters are slow to build and can’t be simply willed into existence by governments opening their wallets. They need patience, a full range of skills and co-operation across the ecosystem if they are to grow and flourish – as the relative fortunes of Cambridge and Oxford show.

    Content marketing is all about creating quality content that builds authority and provides value to potential and existing customers. Content must be on-brand and should of course represent your business well. With this in mind then, I find it utterly baffling that even now, business owners continue to outsource content creation to the lowest bidder, ending up with low quality content that reflect poorly on them.

    Content marketing is all about creating quality content that builds authority and provides value to potential and existing customers. Content must be on-brand and should of course represent your business well. With this in mind then, I find it utterly baffling that even now, business owners continue to outsource content creation to the lowest bidder, ending up with low quality content that reflect poorly on them.

    Would you let a toddler design your business cards or your shop sign? Of course not, so why show a compelte lack of disregard when it comes to your website copy and blog articles?

    What Happens When You Scrimp On Content?

    In my opinion bad content is even worse than no content. If you don't have something interesting or valuable to say, don't bother saying it. You're not just wasting your time, but by allowing rubbish to be published in your name, you are actively damaging your businesses reputation making it less, rather than more likely that you will attract new customers.

    If you are currently outsourcing content, don't ever just leave an agency or freelancer to it. Insist on proofing every article, have an approval process, or at the very least, make sure you are regularly reading what is being published for you.

    Let's look at a recent example. It's shocking because it is so recent, dated January 2015. With such high levels of general awareness regarding content marketing, and with SEO being all about quality content, there are no excuses.

    The odd typo or misuse of grammar is forgivable, and I am the first to admit that i'm far from perfect, but when content is written by someone who doesn't understand English, you end up with something like the snippet below.

    Bad content example

    The heading immediately struck me as strange, as the picture used in the article depicted a couple moving, yet the language used ('transfer') was odd. It is clear that this article was not written by someone whose first language is English, but just look at the authors name “Mark Smith”. It is pretty obvious that the writer is trying to make out that he is English – alarm bells ringing yet?

    If you take a moment to read through any of the above, you'll see that it is factually incorrect (it's called 'moving' not 'transferring') and in many parts, it's just complete gibberish.

    Quality Content Isn't Quick or Cheap To Produce

    A well researched, well written 800 word blog article can take anything up to 3 or 4 hours to write. Add another hour for image sourcing, the creation of a custom graphic and editing the article. Add to that another half an hour to put the article live and then promote it across your various social networks.

    A strong blog article, designed to increase your authority in the eyes of search engines and to instil trust into potential customers (if your content doesn't achieve either of those things, what's the purpose of it?), can easily take half a day to produce; and like it or not, that's time you should be prepared to pay for.

    Never sacrifice the quality of your content for quantity. A single well written article published each month, will be more beneficial to you than any number of cheaply produced bad ones.

    How To Avoid Low Quality Content

    • Always look at past articles or website content written by the agency or freelancer you intend to use before making your decision
    • Have final authorisation over new content that is published on your website, blog or on your behalf on third party websites
    • Google is increasingly able to spot low quality, spammy content and your website or blog will drop down the search results if your content is consistently bad, or even dropped from search results all together
    • Regularly check the content that is being produced, to ensure that quality and relevance remains high
    • Outsourcing for the lowest cost possible will likely result in poor quality content that provides no benefit
    • Outsourcing work to an agency in another country is fine, as long as the writer who will be creating your content is fluent, and writes well in English
    • Never allow content to be published for the sake of it. Every article should serve a purpose and meet a clear objective
    On Monday night the Indianapolis Star's Tom LoBianco broke the news that Indiana Governor Mike Pence would soon launch a “state-run news outlet” to compete against local media outlets called Just IN.

    On Monday night the Indianapolis Star's Tom LoBianco broke the news that Indiana Governor Mike Pence would soon launch a “state-run news outlet” to compete against local media outlets called Just IN.

    LoBianco reported that, "The Pence news outlet will take stories written by state communications directors and publish them on its website. Stories will 'range from straightforward news to lighter features, including personality profiles.'"

    Apparently journalists all over the map - in particular at the Star, across Indiana, as well as nationally - are aghast. The Star's investigative reporter, John Russell, on Monday night Tweeted that, “Every professional journalist in Indiana should join me in denouncing Gov. Pence’s state-run ‘news service,” Indianapolis Star investigative reporter John Russell tweeted Monday night. 

    Opinion editor Tim Swarens of the Star then took it to Def Con Stupid levels, writing in an op-ed piece, "The very concept — that the state government would provide "news stories" to local media — is so absurd, so out of bounds, that someone inside your inner circle should have spoken up vehemently in opposition to the plan."

    Even on Wednesday morning, during witty repartee between Charlie Rose, Nora O'Donnell and Gayle King on CBS's "This Morning" show, Gov. Pence's gambit was compared to communist China's state-run news agency. 

    And what did Pence do in the wake of heavy-handed media criticsm? He lost his spine, retreating that Just IN would now be "just a clearinghouse" for news releases

    I'm not sure what is a greater shame in this debacle: Watching the transparent fear of an elected official, or seeing yet another nail in the death of traditional journalism being driven by the media themselves. Don't get me wrong. It's not because media organizations are ill-equipped to develop and deliver content the public wishes to consume. It's because media doesn't understand the sheer nature of media itself in today's world. 

    For many years, as consumer media consumption habits have changed I have preached to oranizations large-and-small that they must think of themselves as media outlets and content producers. Indeed, audiences are continually looking for fresh, unique content that stands out from the traditional take on today's news cycle. And whether it's delivered by CBS, the Star, High Times Magazine, or Oreo Cookies -- the public is consuming.  

    Take Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser, which, among other things, was an ambitious branded content trailblazer through the now defunct online portal BudTV. 

    "When Janet Jackson had her 'wardrobe malfuction,' we somehow got blamed because our brands were known for humorous and engaging advertising." said Tim Murphy, a former senior brand executive at Anheuser-Busch. "At the same time, technology was beginning to drive brand behaviors. We didn't like that and felt we could take ownership of our content through innovation. So while we toned things down in traditional channels, at the same time we created our own 'water cooler community' and took full ownership of our content and the channels they were delivered in." 

    The first example of A-B's foray through BudTV was the Emmy Award-winning "Swear Jar" ad which became an overnight sensation. And while BudTV ultimately failed, it only did so only because the portal was far ahead of its time and, at the time, audiences were not yet ready to consume much of the longer form video BudTV featured. 

    Since then, of course, many brands and organizations have followed in BudTV's footsteps, ranging from RedBull (the arguably most successul) to not-for-profits to hundreds upon hundreds of others. 

    Most parallel to what we thought might come from Just IN -- at least before Gov. Pence lost his spine -- might be an effort in which I have been deeply involved over the past year -- the Accelerate St. Louis program. It is a collaboration by the St. Louis Regional Chamber and St. Louis Parntership for Economic Development to create a living, breathing content portal and information engine that both connects and elevates the visibility of the startups and entrepreneurism ecosystem in and around metro-St. Louis. 

    More than anything, AccelerateSTL produces, sources and aggregates both original and third-party content and pushes it out to watchful audiences about startups in greater St. Louis from a variety of issue experts ranging from startup CEOs and founders to accelerator heads to innovation park developers to venture capitalists to entrepreneurial mentors and the list goes on.

    At least in the wake of the media's angst and Gov. Pence's weak knees, Just IN will only feature content written by the state's public information staff -- repurposed news releases that no one will read. 

    But had Just IN stayed the course as a news and content producer, the silliness of traditional media outlets to comparing it to communist states and suggesting Gov. Pence had prodigously breached some line in the sand on the media's beach is ridiculous. It's demonstrative of an out-of-touch industry that continues to struggle to understand today's consumer as well as grasping the reality of who their new competition is - consumer brands and a variety of organizations far and wide.

    This infographic highlights the three major enterprise use cases for social media along with products that support them.

    According to a new report published this morning, Customer Care, Social Intelligence and Marketing are the three primary social media software use cases for companies with more than 500 employees.

    The research is based on the analysis of 400+ in-depth reviews across 23 social media management products and thousands of insights from real software users reviews on TrustRadius, the leading peer review site for business software.

    Below is an infographic that summarizes which enterprise social media platform each use case. The report also lists the tool functionalities that are required for each use case and and feature in-depth case studies of Comcast, British Telecommunications and Groupon.

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